I missed a few days writing. Though I had toyed with the idea of trying to break my modest record of 43 days in a row, I am finding that my more important goal is to explore new ideas and focus on producing quality content. Which means sticking to writing broadly, writing as often as I can, if not every day.
So how do you stick to something like that?
I have developed some success in sticking to difficult habits. Though I’ll admit to going through times of increased and decreased commitment based on what’s going on in my life at the time, in the past couple years (the last year especially) I have been able to stick to reading often, writing consistently, and going to the gym.
This is of course on top of normal living. Working, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry etc. It’s difficult to successfully build new work and leisure habits. It is especially difficult when you have a quote unquote typical day job. This is because you have a natural separation (for the most part) between work time and non-work time. It can be supremely difficult to use some of your time not in the office for work.
And that is what reading and writing is. It’s work. It’s enjoyable and you are doing it for yourself, but it can be trying nonetheless.
So how do you stick with things?
On top of the obvious prerequisites like the activity being something that you actually want to accomplish, and having clearly defined goals, I found that one of the most important ways to stick to habits long term is by giving yourself a break.
When you set yourself on doing something and you falter–even slightly–Resistance surges forward. It senses your weakness and seeks to exploit it. This is why every day you miss at the gym makes it even harder to get back to it. Why after a few missed days you feel the urge to just give it up altogether. You already fell back on your goal, so what’s the point, right?
That is Resistance charging forward.
The way to beat it back is to take a deep breath and realize that all is not lost because you faltered. Everyone falters. What will set you apart is understanding what your goal actually is, and cutting yourself some slack in order to actually achieve it. Your goal should not be to make it to the gym four days a week, but to get or remain healthy. And it’s far more conducive to your health if you miss a week at the gym and return to it, than it is to miss a week and give up completely.
Be weary of inflicting too much self-guilt on yourself. In the end it will hurt you more than it will help. Understand that life happens. I missed a few days of writing last week because I got invited to a Tigers game by my sister and brother-in-law on Wednesday, and went out with some co-workers last minute on Thursday.
Should I have planned better? Wednesday was very last minute, but I probably could have. Am I happy about missing days? No. But I am also not going to be so rigid in my goal to write that I pass up fun opportunities with family and friends. Because like I said, I’m learning that my goal is less to write everyday, than it is to get back in the habit of producing quality and thoughtful content. And doing it as often as I can.
The best way to stick with things long term is to cut yourself some slack, and give yourself a break. Stay on your goals, but don’t get too down on yourself when life creeps in.
Don’t miss the forest for the trees.